Introducing a few of the people I’ve met along life’s path

gathering of friends, Fernandina Beach FL
We recently gathered with friends in Fernandina Beach, FL. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015

By Bruce Stambaugh

There can be no mistake about it. I enjoy meeting new people. Now, there’s nothing wrong with the guys and gals I already know. I like them, too, and the stories and friendships we share.

Of course, I love my family. They mean the world to me. I hope they think likewise.

I find there is just something personally memorable about meeting strangers who so willing and so easily engage in conversation. It might be the only one we have, and then we all move on. Then again, happenstance encounters might lead to endearing bonds. You never know unless you take a risk.

I’m glad for folks who feel the same way. Otherwise, life wouldn’t nearly be as sunny. To be sure, traveling takes away the home field advantage for everyone. We’re all standing on neutral ground.

Dick Stambaugh, Marian Stambaugh, Bruce Stambaugh, parents
My late parents, Dick and Marian Stambaugh. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015
I attribute my willingness to smile and greet others to two factors. One was my gregarious father, who knew no strangers. He enjoyed exploring nature and history, and the fear of asking was never a fault. Tact, however, didn’t seem to be in his repertoire. People liked him anyhow.

The other is my intense yearning for learning. And the only way to satisfy that is to listen, look, read, ask and explore. Hopefully, I mind my manners in the process.

Travel enhances the desire to gain new understandings. It also has afforded plenty of opportunities to meet and know many fine folks. A few of them come to mind.

While visiting San Antonio’s world famous River Walk, I casually asked a local police officer where the best place to eat lunch was. He deferred, saying he wasn’t permitted to make recommendations.

sunrise, Grand Canyon
Sunrise at Shoshone Point, Grand Canyon, AZ. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015.
I reworded my question. “Where are you going to eat lunch?” I asked. He told me, and we waved to each other as he walked in.

We found a young ranger equally helpful at Grand Canyon National Park. When he finished his talk, I asked him where the best place was to view the sunrise.

The wise young man looked around, leaned in and whispered, “Shoshone Point.” We weren’t disappointed the next morning.

When vacationing in Fernandina Beach, Florida, I kept seeing the same woman evening after evening taking photos of the sunset over the town’s harbor on the Intercostal waterway. We talked, shared about photography, and the next thing I knew Lea had invited me to her home for a camera club meeting.

photography, Fernandina Beach FL
My friend Lea being Lea. © Bruce Stambaugh 2015
I can tell we’re going to be photographic comrades for a long time.

More than 30 years ago, Neva and I attended a church conference in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. We stayed in an old brick farmhouse of a very gracious guest. We hit it off right away, despite my lame attempts at humor. I especially loved Mary’s tasty and colorful meals. We’ve been friends ever since, even attending her wedding. Now we love her saint of a husband just as much as Mary.

photography, friends
Impromptu photo situations are my favorite with friends. © Bruce Stamaugh 2015
Several years ago, Neva and I met Sharon, a nationally syndicated columnist, at a book signing in Toledo of all places. We hit it off right away and have been communicating and encouraging one another’s writing ever since.

These are but a few examples of the many, many kind people we have met along life’s meandering path. I’d run out of ink if I mentioned everyone.

Besides, you know who you are. Thanks so much for being our friends.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

Enjoying the people I meet along life’s way

The Rebault Club Inn, Ft. George Island, Florida.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I greatly enjoy the people I meet along life’s journey.

Many of the people I’ll encounter again I’m sure, if only by proximity to where I live or my relationship to them. Others I may never see again, but I’ll certainly remember their kindness and hospitality.

On our recent trip south, my wife and I met several people who graciously shared those two dynamic characteristics. I’d like you to meet just two of them.

Like much of North America, the winter in the southern United States this year has been hard. With the potential of slippery roads ahead, we decided to stop for the night at a motel in Richburg, South Carolina.

After checking in, we walked to a nearby no frills mom and pop restaurant. Only a few tables were occupied when my wife and I arrived. A kind lady draped with a stained apron and holding a wet washcloth invited us to sit wherever we wanted. We chose a table well away from the door where cold air rushed in at every opening.

The official forecast for that area projected black ice on roadways in the South Carolina Piedmont region, where Richburg is located. Hearing that, the restaurant manager had sent the young help home before dark since they were all inexperienced drivers.

A skeleton crew kept the restaurant open. The thinking was they wouldn’t get many evening customers. Most of the day had already been slow.

However, shortly after Neva and I sat down, several other people filed in and the restaurant was soon abuzz with hungry diners. The kind woman, who later introduced herself as Laura, welcomed everyone the same way she had us, with an apologetic invitation to find a seat.

“I’m so sorry,” Laura said in her soft, easy southern drawl. “We’re short staffed since we sent our young help home because of the weather. Please be patient with us.”

Bill, the volunteer greeter at the Rebault Club Inn.
Laura was a stately woman in her 50s. She kept repeating the same thing to every new patron who arrived. She cleared, cleaned and waited on every table by herself. She sent the dinner orders to the kitchen and returned to check on every table. With each visit, she kept kindly apologizing.

Yet she and the kitchen staff seemed to work miracles. The food was not only served in a timely manner, it was as delightful as Laura’s hospitality. The baked chicken, black-eyed peas and grits were scrumptious. This woman defined both graciousness and efficiency. I hope all her tips were generous.

Then there was Bill, an octogenarian volunteer guide who greeted us at the door of an out-of-the way national historical site we discovered by accident in Florida. We easily struck up a conversation with Bill as he greeted us as we entered the Rebault Club Inn. Originally from the far southwestern hills of Virginia, we enjoyed hearing his personal story as much as we did touring the beautiful estate.

Bill’s eyes sparkled and his smile grew with each question I asked him. He had come to northern Florida to get away from the harsh winters of the Appalachian Mountains. He was glad he had.

Imagine my surprise when he told us that he had graduated with honors from Ohio University at age 68. When the dean announced his name, he received a standing ovation. Bill repeated the story like the audience was still applauding.

No matter our destination, it’s people like Laura and Bill who really make our travels memorable.

The lawn of the backyard of the Rebault Club Inn, where many weddings are held.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

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